NEWS
Thursday March 14 2019
EL: Milik rescues Napoli in Salzburg

Arkadiusz Milik scored a crucial away goal, as Napoli qualified for the Europa League quarter-finals despite a 3-1 defeat to RB Salzburg.

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The Partenopei won the first leg 3-0, but had to thank Alex Meret for some crucial late saves in keeping the clean sheet. Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic sat out bans, with Raul Albiol injured, so Vlad Chiriches and Sebastiano Luperto were the only centre-back options. Lorenzo Insigne pulled out in the warm-up, making way for Dries Mertens. Salzburg had Xaver Schlager suspended and Zlatko Junuzovic injured, but brought in Dominik Szoboszlai, Enock Mwepu and had Takumi Minamino fit again.

Arek Milik only grazed his diving header to a Fabian Ruiz cross, but it was the Poland international who got the all-important away goal.

Mario Rui caught Mwepu in possession and rolled across from the left, so Alexander Walke did all he could to prevent an Andreas Ulmer own goal, but Milik scored from the rebound with an acrobatic finish at the back post.

Allan was at fault for the equaliser, passing it straight to Szoboszlai, who threaded through for Munas Dabbur. The striker sold Chiriches with a dummy and beat Meret from close range.

Milik only scuffed the finish after Mertens surged forward and threaded his pass through the eye of a needle, then moments later Fabian Ruiz cracked one against the upright from distance.

Jerome Onguene nodded wide from a corner and Minamoto fired off target, while Walke got away with a howler when allowing the Mertens cross-shot to squirm through his arms, but stopped it crossing the line.

The hosts stepped up the pressure with time ticking down and introduced Fredrik Guldbrandsen, who forced several saves as a substitute in the first leg too.

He made an immediate impact, getting in front of Luperto to slide on to a Hannes Wolf low cross from the left and give Salzburg the lead on the night, albeit not on aggregate.

Wolf drilled just wide and Guldbrandsen’s effort was deflected past the far post, while Meret had to fingertip a Minamino curler out from under the bar.

There was bad news when Chiriches went down clutching his hamstring. Kevin Malcuit came on, moving Elseid Hysaj to centre-back in an emergency situation.

Dabbur almost scored a stunner at the 87th minute, his spectacular acrobatic scissor-kick volley smacking against the upright.

It was only a warning, as a free kick was knocked down for Christoph Leitgeb to fire in at the back post in the final minute of normal time.

This put it at 3-4 on aggregate and suddenly Napoli were nervous. Fortunately, when a corner bounced to the edge of the six-yard box, it was to defender Onguene who prodded wide.

RB Salzburg 3-1 Napoli (3-4 agg)

Milik 14 (N), Dabbur 25 (RB), Guldbrandsen 64 (RB), Leitgeb 90 (RB)

RB Salzburg: Walke; Lainer, Onguene, Ramalho, Ulmer; Mwepu (Guldbrandsen 59), Samassekou, Wolf, Szoboszlai (Leitgeb 74); Minamino (Haland 86), Dabbur

Napoli: Meret; Hysaj, Chiriches (Malcuit 78), Luperto, Mario Rui; Callejon, Allan, Fabian Ruiz, Zielinski (Diawara 74); Milik, Mertens (Younes 88)

Ref: Del Cerri Grande (ESP)

Image via @uefa_it